Passport to the 21st Century
John Seely Brown, Steve Denning, 
Katalina Groh, Larry Prusak: 
Four of the world's leading thinkers
explore the role of storytelling in the world

 I Introduction to storytelling I John Seely Brown on science I Steve Denning on change I Katalina Groh on video
Larry Prusak on organization I Discussion I | Contact us | Bibliography on storytelling

Storytelling: Scientist's Perspective: John Seely Brown
The lens of practice

   But the key message for me is basically the world itself is read, not through the lenses of knowledge, but through the lenses of practice. And that is a very deep message, the full tenor of which I donít yet understand myself. 
   So what this suggests is that basically, we do have an interesting tension here. Weíve got these wonderful practices emerging here. And we have some processes 

over here.
   But we need some of the processes in order to be able to have knowledge jump from this community of practice to this community of practice, to this community of practice, and so on.
   But we donít have the rails of practice to do that.  We then have to look at how to create a process that creates a coordination across these different communities of practice which will really become an enabling framework, to coordinate these kinds of practices. If this framework, this set of processes, are too overloaded, too overlapping, too much of a burden, basically, I will guarantee that the knowledge will simply be killed. If they arenít strong enough at all, they end up having a lot of self-canceling operations. It means that the whole is not more than the sum of the parts, it comes from the differences.
   Basically there is an interesting balancing act between how do you ensure that your processes are enabling and how do you actually nurture these types of practices and support the social fabric. And so we have both of these things that we have to think about 
   Obviously this is one thing having to do with the role of leadership, to be able to create the spirit to want to have these processes not overspecified, so that they become backbones for the ecology, they become enabling structures. But you do need some enabling structures as seeds of conversation, the ecology as a way of coordinating things. 
   And thatís I think the real catch  and one of the reason why leadership is so important, Plenty of medium sized company started out with plenty of well-architected practices, to create standard work that enables these practices to really be coordinated. Then what happens, you find that you can always add new step to the process. Pretty soon, the process becomes stifling, and when the process become stifling, the knowledge is simply killed. 
   And so the catch we have is: how to use these boundary objects, maybe the steps of these processes to create for us, these boundary objects, around which negotiation and practice happen, think of it as sources of creative abrasion. 
Books and videos on storytelling 
*** In Good Company : How Social Capital Makes Organizations Work
by Don Cohen, Laurence Prusak (February 2001) Harvard Business School Press
*** The Social Life of Information, by John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid
(February 2000) Harvard Business School Press
*** The Springboard : How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations
by Stephen Denning (October 2000) Butterworth-Heinemann 
*** The Art of Possibility, a video with Ben and Ros Zander : Groh Publications (February 2001)
Copyright © 2001 John Seely Brown 
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